Tag Archives: Word of God

The Walking Dead

Living without hope of change or living apart from the presence of God is a never ending nightmare. Truly, it can be likened to death row where the phrase “Dead Man Walking” rings true.

This kind of depression is clinical; prayer and meditation on God’s Word are the only tools from whence deliverance comes. All else is a bandaid covering a deep and festering sore. Medicine, therapy, and exercise can contain this potential life destroyer but only God can heal a broken heart.

There is a solution to depression and it is found in developing a relationship with Jesus Christ.  “For there is one Mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ.”  If you’re suffering from depression imitate the writer of Psalm 88 and cry out to God for salvation.

When Life Throws You a Curve

Scripture:  Ezekiel 37:1-14

Introduction

My brother Dwight and I were born one year apart.  As we grew up, mother clearly recognized that we could be hellions.  Dwight and I played rough; we fought as if we had not been related.  He hit me in the back of my head with a brick and the dent still remains; I stabbed him in the foot with a knife and that gash left a prominent scar.

Yet we grew up with hopes and dreams of becoming rich and prosperous.  We longed for the day when we would enjoy life together.  When he was 15, almost 16 and I was 16 almost 17, I entered the United States Army in June 1973.  In August I was in Basic Individual Training, almost ready to graduate and go to Fort Polk, LA for Advanced Training enroute to Vietnam.  I was taking drown proofing that morning; It was the morning life threw me a curve.

My 1SG sent for me; there was an emergency at home; my beloved brother Dwight had died.  I was totally devastated; all the plans we had made were lost; I had done nothing wrong; yet my brother was gone.  I couldn’t swim; but Dwight could swim like a fish.  I tell you life had thrown me a curve.  My spirit was broken.

I wonder if there is anyone here who has been crushed by life; whose spirit has been broken; Lord, have mercy!

 Move 1

Ezekiel was born into a family of priests. He dreamed of the day when he would serve as a priest.  Solomon had built this beautiful temple to the Lord. It was magnificent. As Ezekiel grew up, each time he went passed the temple he thought inside, “one day I’m going to work there.

One day the people will come to me, and I will offer sacrifices on their behalf to God.One day I’ll start to move up the ranks of the priest and who knows I may even become one of the chief priests. Ezekiel spent his entire young life, preparing to become a priest to serve in the temple. The Jewish law provided for a man to enter into the priesthood at the age of 30. Ezekiel thought all he had to do was to make it to age 30. Ezkiel could hardly wait for his 30th birthday.

Ezekiel had a one day vision.  One day, “I’m going to be priest.  I wonder if any of you have had a one day vision; one day I’m going to be on that team.” One day I’m going to get that job. One day “I’m going to finish my education.” One day I’m going to get out of this neighborhood. One day!

Well I stop by to tell you that life is filled with interruptions, life can throw you a curve that will mess up your one day plans.

Move 2

Ezekiel was looking forward to becoming a priest, however the people of God were busy living their own lives as though God did not exist. They were far more interested in money, sex, and power than God.

God told them to repent or he would remove them from his presence. There response was “who is the Lord that we should worship Him.” They forgot He was the one who brought them out of slavery in Egypt. They forgot He was the one who put health in their bodies and light in their eyes. They forgot he was the one who got them out of bed each morning and enabled them to go to work. They forgot he was the one who really was in control of everything.

When they refused to repent and turn back to God, God sent the Babylonian army to destroy the city of Jerusalem.  Historians tell us that Ezekiel was probably about 25 years old when this happened.

Those vicious Babylonian soldiers massacred the people in the city, young and old, male and female alike. They set fire to the magnificent temple Solomon had built and had stood for 400 years and they reduced it to rubble and ashes.

Just 5 birthdays away from obtaining his goal of serving as a priest in the temple, Ezekiel watched as his dreams, his hopes, his plans for the future all went up in flames as the Babylonians set fire to the temple.

Ezekiel tells us in chapter 1 of verse 1, when he was 30 years old, he was among the captives by the river of Kebar, a canal off the Euphrates River in Babylon which is present day Iraq.

He had envisioned that at age 30 he would be in Jerusalem finally ascending to the priesthood with a grand coronation.  He had envisioned. His family and everybody would be celebrating with him. He had envisioned being at the top of his game. But it didn’t happen that way. Tell your neighbor their might be a change in plans.

Instead, he finds himself in rags, a slave with the other captives, not even having property they could call their own. Ezekiel was devastated.  His dreams of becoming a priest had been crushed.  He along with the other captives cried out “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”

In other words, God has abandoned us; our hopes, dreams, and visions have been destroyed.  We are of all men most miserable.  What did they have to live for? His one vision of becoming a priest in the temple was over; life had thrown Ezekiel a curve.

Move 3

Early one morning, Ezekiel got a word from the Lord.  It was a word for people whose life had been devastated.  It was for a people who had lost a major battle and been slain.  It was a word for people whose hopes and dreams had been crushed and who lay lifeless on the ground.

Ezekiel was a part of that crowd.  And God visited him.  When life throws you a curve, expect God to visit you if you are one of his children.  God gave Ezekiel a new vision.  No he would no longer be a priest; but God who can transform your life from one dream to the next; our God decided to make Ezekiel a prophet.  A watchman and a voice to let his people know that their God was still on the throne with all power in his hand.

Yes, the people were devastated.  Yes, the people had been slain in battle.  But God showed up.  Imagine with me for a moment the Armies of Israel and the Armies of the Babylonians colliding with each other on the battlefield with swords and spears.

The death toll is amazing. There are far too many dead for the living to bury them all so they strip them of their clothing and valuables and they just leave them to rot in the sun. Over time, scattered all over the plains is this pile of bones in every direction. They have become bleached white in the sun. It’s an erie sight to see the skulls, the rib cages, the arm and leg bones scattered throughout the battlefield.  The Armies of Israel lay desolate in the sun; casualties of trying to fight to survive; decimated, dead, and defeated.

Yes, Israel’s hope is lost, their dreams dashed in the process of life. And it is to very place, God’s Spirit speaks to a prophet whose hopes have been crushed in the Babylonian Captivity.  I think God is telling him, look you think you and your people have it bad, what about what took place here in this place. All the hopes, the dreams, the fears, the love, the hate, the plans, they had, stopped right here on this battlefield. Look at how dry the bones are. They have been here for a long time.

And I stop by to ask somebody, even though your hopes have been crushed and your dreams have been smashed; even though life has thrown you a curve, when was the last time you visited a cemetery?  There are some people buried whose hopes were still alive and yet you sit here with the blood running warm in your veins.  Can I get a witness, here?

Then God asks the impossible. “Ezekiel, can these bones live?” What is the situation around your life today. What is it that seems to be robbing you of your life? When God’s hand is upon you and walking with you, God asks “ Can life be brought again out of this disaster.” Ezekiel responded, “Oh Sovereign Lord, You Alone Know.’ I want us to notice that Ezekiel admits, he does not know the answer as to whether those dried up bones could live again, but he does know who does know what it would take for it to make it happen.

I don’t know what bad decision you have made. I don’t know what situation you are in at home. I don’t know why getting a job has been so hard for you. I don’t know if you’re going to lose your home or lose your car. I don’t know if, how or when things might turn around for you. But I do know who has the answer to all of those questions. I do know who has the power to make you start living again. His name is Jesus. Tell your neighbor, it’s time to start living again.

God told priest now turned prophet in Ezekiel 37:4-6 (NIV) 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ’Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”

I want you to notice, what God told Ezekiel to do. Notice that God’s response to the curve ball that interrupted Ezekiel’s plans was way outside the box. Some of us would have protested after all who wants to preach to a dead church, with a dead situation? Some of us would have said, I can’t do it. I need to be assigned to a church where somebody will say amen and somebody will shout when I preach the Word of God. Some of us would have thought that preaching to dead, dry bones was a waste of our time.  Lord, have mercy!

But I’m so glad that Ezekiel did what God told him to do. He began to speak the word of God over a hopeless looking situation. And I stop by to tell you that you need to start speaking the word of God over your dead situation. For the bible says that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.”  For the bible says, “For the word of God is alive and powerful.  It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow.  It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God.  Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.”  Can I get a witness here?

Ezekiel preached and Ezekiel saw these bones come together, and then tendons grew and held them together, the muscles grew on the bones, and the skin started covering the muscles. All of sudden he finds himself in the middle of a massive army, but nobody’s moving, and nobody is alive. God tells him to prophesy once again. Ezekiel 37:9-10 (NIV)

Just because your life may seem way out of control with pieces, scattered all over the place, just keep on speaking the word, and things will start coming back together again. Don’t get scared when you feel life coming back into your situation.  It’s just God pulling things together for you.

But God didn’t stop with just a physical restoration.  God completed the work by getting Ezekiel to call on the Holy Spirit for a spiritual restoration.  Somebody here has a broken spirit, a contrite heart, and wants you to know he’s with you.  Physically, you’re present and accounted for, but spiritually you’re broken and defeated.

God wants you to know that he has the answer for your lost passion and joy in life.  God knows that thing devastated your spirit and you are depressed and in despair.  And so God said to Ezekiel in verse 9 “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ’This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet–a vast army.

You see even after we get things put back together, it’s not enough for us to think we can handle it from here. We need to have the Spirit of God working on the inside us in order for us to become truly alive. It looked like God was taking Ezekiel to a cemetery. The last stop, the place where hope is buried and dreams are concealed.  But God, somebody say But God, was actually taking him to a place to discover that even when life throws you a curve, if you hear the word of the Lord, God can bring life back into your situation. Hallelujah!

I know your situation is devastating and I know you want to quit, roll over and play dead, but don’t you give up on God yet. Perhaps God has taken you to that place so that you can find out just how great your God is.  Church I tell, our God is a Wonder; our God is an awesome God and when you come out of this, you won’t look like what you been through.  Hallelujah!

God you see was not only restoring hope to those in captivity, but God was restoring hope and life to Ezekiel.  Ezekiel was at his end, but God, through his own preaching, resurrected dead dreams within him.  God by this vision allowed Ezekiel to know that the enemy may have captured you, but the enemy did not capture God.  God by this vision allowed Ezekiel to know that although he would not be a priest, he could still prophesy.  He could still be used in God’s service.  Beloved, no matter what you’ve been through God can still use you in his service.

Because that same Holy Spirit that breathe on those people; that same Holy Spirit that brought life, hope, and possibilities back to those people is the same Holy Spirit that wants to resurrect you.  For I hear Jesus declare in John 7:37-39, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me!  Anyone who believes in me may come and drink!  For the Scriptures declare, “Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.”  (when he said “living water”, he was speaking of the Spirit who would be given to everyone believing in him.  But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)

There may be people who have written you off today because of the mistakes you have made. You may have written yourself off because life threw you a curve. Your friends may have abandoned you; your enemies may have persecuted you.  Your life, your dream was stolen from you and you thought all hope was lost.

But I stop by to tell you that now you are clean, now you are washed by the water and the word of Almighty God.  And if you’ll speak God’s Word and be filled with God’s Holy Spirit, God will resurrect you.  I’m a living witness.  I have been down that road of tragedy where my vocation, my career was lost.  I’ve been thrown a curve ball or two beloved, but I found out that God is able to do what no other power can do.  He picked me up out of the trap of the enemy.  He restored my name and my soul.  He brought me out of darkness into the marvelous light, and God will do the same thing for you.

He is able to intervene; so when life throws you a curve.  Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.  He will deliver; he will come through for you.  Hallelujah!

An Invitation to Change

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Introduction

I learned so much from watching the hit television show “The Preachers of LA.”  II can’t wait to watch “The Preachers of Detroit.”  These shows highlight the flamboyance of certain high profile preachers and the ministries they share within their communities.

Yet some people get the message confused with the messenger.  However, the fact remains that the messengers of God come in all different shades.  No two messengers approach the task the same.  Each of us has to obey God and relay the message the way god has shaped it within our heart.  And you cannot be the barometer as to whether we’re pleasing God or not.  Only sinners who are weary and heavy laden can judge whether the message is valid.

Well, John the Baptist felt the same way about Jesus’ approach.  He questioned whether Jesus actually was a messenger of God.  John sent questions to Jesus about his authenticity.  John wanted Jesus to validate his claim to be the Messiah.  Albeit the Holy Spirit had shown John the sign that Jesus was the one prophesized about in the Scriptures, John still wanted Jesus to verify his claim.  Why?  Their lifestyles and approaches to ministry were so different.

John lived an aesthetic lifestyle.  He denied himself the pleasures of this world.  He lived in the wilderness, ate wild locusts and honey and never cut his hair.  From all appearances he lived as a Nazarite in the Old Testament.  A Nazarite was forbidden to touch dead bodies, marry a foreigner, or drink wine.  John came preaching, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”  So did Jesus, but Jesus lived a different lifestyle.

Jesus came eating and drinking, hanging out with sinners, attending wedding parties, in addition to attending synagogue and participating in the worship of God, the Father.  Jesus had a life that he used to influence sinners to discipleship.  He used every avenue he could to reach people.  His was a different approach than John, the Baptist.  Yet, his message was the same.  “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand.  The Great Invitation remained the same:  Accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and Follow Him.

Move 1

Well, if that is true, and it is.  Why don’t people respond to the message rather than the messenger?

First, immature people are listening to the message [v.16-17].  They are immature in the sense of not being ready to act on the message.  Most of those who hear the word of God concerning repentance and salvation have not yet attained the conviction of sin being despicable to God.  They don’t realize how much God hates sin, nor do they hate sin.  Most people just want to be appeased and given a sense of release from the weight of sin for that moment.  But in order for you to appropriately hear the gospel, you must have reached a point of hatred and disgust with the sinful life you’re living.  You need to be sick and tired of being sick and tired.  You must be ready for change, not temporary change, but eternal change.  You must be ready for rest.  This is what is means to be weary and heavy laden.  This is what it means to be ready for God to intervene in your life.  And until you seriously come to hate the sin you’ve committed then you’re like a child being entertained.  You may laugh or you may cry, but you’re not going to change.

Second, the message is being shared in ways that seek to please people and deal with their present situation rather than their eternal destination [v.18-19].  Jesus has stated emphatically in these passages that until a person is ready to change, they will always criticize the messenger rather than deal with the message.  It doesn’t matter how holy the messenger lives in the eyes of people, or how loose the messenger lives in the eyes of people.  What matters is whether the messenger is being faithful to the God who called him/her to deliver the message.  Socrates stated, “To Thine Own Self be True.”  I now add, “To God Be True.”  In other words, be true to what God told you.  Tell it the way he told it to you; approach the people he sends you to the way he tells you to approach them.  Don’t try to fit some preconceived notion of people.  People will get you off track; people will get you killed; people will get you fired.  Don’t allow anyone to cause you to make yourself more important than the message God has given you to offer.  It is the message that will deliver those who are ready to respond.  Keep your focus on eternal destinies not temporary, emotional highs and lows.  God is concerned about both, but his message is intended to get a person’s spiritual life in proper order.  For it is the spirit that dictates how well a person will live in this temporary world.  Seek only to please God as you do his work in the earth.

Third, the options being presented are not exclusive enough [v.25-27].  It must be made clear that there is only one way to find peace from the weight of sin and guilt caused by alienation from God.  We live in a world that offers many ways to salvation, peace, and rest.  Yet, the church is charged to represent Christ and Christ alone.  The people don’t respond to mixed messages.  We must be consistent in the fact that there is only one way of salvation acceptable to God according to the Bible.  That way is through faith in His son.  Without such faith, rest cannot be obtained.  Jesus is the only one who can connect a weary and labored sinner to the Father and only the Father can give rest.  Only the Father can lift the burden of sin; only the Father can forgive, restore, and refresh a life broken by sin.

Move 2

Who then can respond to this exclusive spiritual message of rest and peace?

First, only the weary can respond [v.28].  The word “weary” means, “worn out; having one’s patience, tolerance, or liking exhausted; causing tiredness.”  If you are just looking for absolution from guilt but you really enjoy the sin, don’t come to Jesus.  The fact of the matter is you’re not ready.  You have to be a person who’s sinful life causing you grief, pain, and worry.  Your sin must cause you to walk the floor at night crying out to God for help.  Your sin must cause you to cry bitter tears at inopportune times and in inappropriate places.  Your sin must cause you to not only ask for forgiveness but also cause you to resolve never to do it again.  You need to not just want to be let off the hook; you need to be ready to destroy the behavior that put you on the hook in the first place.  You’ve got to be worn out with the sin.  If you’re not weary, don’t fake it, wait.

Second, only those willing to change can respond [v.29].  A clear definition of insanity is “to keep doing the same things you’re doing now but to keep expecting a different result.”  Jesus offers the sinner a lifestyle that is no longer independent.  Jesus offers to take the sinner by hand and heart and lead them into a place they have never entered before.  It is a place of rest.  Rest, much needed rest, from the heartaches and mental anguish caused by sin, guilt, and shame.  Jesus invites the repentant sinner to a new way of living.  Jesus invites the sinner to begin a relationship with God by following him.  It is this relationship with God that offers rest and peace to a sin sick soul.  This is a call to change!  It is a call to rest!  No more judging or criticizing self; no more beating up on yourself.  It is looking through eyes of faith at the God of salvation knowing that He loves you.  Once Jesus allows you to see the love of God, rest and peace follows.  There is no greater joy than knowing that God, your creator loves you regardless of what you’ve done or where you’ve been.  There is no greater peace and rest than knowing that your God will always be there for you and that he will help you grow and succeed in life.

Move 3

This is the Great Invitation.  Jesus invites you to change.  Jesus calls you to stop living your life apart from God and to begin living your life in His presence.  Jesus assures you that when you accept his invitation; rest and peace shall be your reward.  Your soul will be filled with the radiating glory of the goodness of God, the Father.  Your spirit will be made alive, quickened, by the spirit of the Father.  Your live will begin anew.  God will be your God and you will be adopted into his family.

How then shall the weary and heavy-laden respond?  First, come to Jesus [v.28].  You’ve tried alcohol, drugs, women, work, and the world.  Now, walk out of that quagmire of confusion and decide to receive faith in God’s Son.  Simply turn around and listen to what Jesus is saying to you right now.

Second, become a disciple of Jesus Christ [v.29].  Decide to embrace Jesus as Lord.  The Word of God says, “That if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord; and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead you will be saved.”  What you do is confess that your efforts have failed, and left you weary with guilt.  Confess that you have found no other way able to release you from the guilt of sin, and then call on the name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.

Third, learn from Jesus Christ.  A disciple is one who is under discipline of the teacher.  In other words, you exchange your way of doing and being right for that of what the Word of God says you should do to be right.  As a disciple you constantly change to comply with what the word of God asks you to do.  As a disciple you embrace change as a way of life.  Jesus sought to please the father by obeying his word and so do you.  Jesus sought to be a blessing and so do you as you prosper in the things of God and in this world.  As a disciple you seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness.  As a disciple you belong to God in Christ.

Move 4

Finally, as a result of coming to Jesus, becoming his disciple and learning from him, you enter a period of rest and peace.  Rest from the bondage of sin that caused you to be restless and worn.  Rest from the power of repeated and habitual sin dominating your life.  Rest from the constant search of looking for a way out.  Rest from the fast paced life.  Rest from worrying about where you will spend eternity.

Everyday in every way your life will begin to get better because you know Jesus Christ.  This is God’s Great Invitation.  He wants your life to be peaceful, restful, and successful.  Will you come to Him?  Are you weary of sin?  Are you willing to change?  If so, come to Jesus, become His disciple, and learn his way of doing and being right.  He is here for you right now.  Why not lay down your heavy burden and let Christ pick you up and bring you out of your pit of despair?  I assure you that the love of God will be found in the face of Jesus Christ.  Come to Jesus!